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Clause 2 - Personal allowance for 2013-14 for those born after 5 April 1948

Part of Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 23rd April 2013.

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Photo of Chris Evans Chris Evans Labour, Islwyn 4:00 pm, 23rd April 2013

No. The hon. Gentleman has missed the point. I know that he is very new to the House and I welcome him and thank him for that intervention. I spent a number of weeks in Eastleigh. It is a nice place, not so much for us, but it is a nice place.

My point was that we get nowhere by talking about previous records. We should only talk about what is happening here and now. A constituent might be an elderly person, one of those one in four in poverty, struggling to pay the food and heating bills, sitting in their coat too afraid to put an extra bar on the fire. Someone might sit in front of that person and say it was all the Labour party’s fault; that it was 13 years of Labour Government; or go even further and say that it was 18 years of Tory Government. That means absolutely nothing when the person is suffering at the moment.

They want to know whether the policies in place at the moment—today, 23 April—are having an adverse effect on their life. They need to know that the Government are not too arrogant to review that policy and say they may have got it wrong. That is the point I am making. It is not about rewriting history, or standing here and defending previous Governments. It is about trying to help those who are most in need at the moment.

In society, the oldest and youngest are most affected by poverty. When we talk about the clause and its impact on basic taxpayers, those taxpayers are probably on the poverty line. They are paying £1,500 for dual fuel bills from energy companies. They are being squeezed all the time, and their real wages are down by 2.4%. They may have a family with children struggling in poverty. We can quote statistics and explain how moving the tax band up will help to lift people out of poverty, but what does poverty mean? I am not denigrating any examples that we have heard today from people who have grown up in poverty. I enjoyed some of the back stories from Government Members, and I am not saying that we have a monopoly on being impoverished.

Poverty means that children are sent to school from cold homes. They are tired and not warm enough, and they do not have the intellectual or physical equipment to succeed in school. They are written off before they start, and that is a tragedy. That is why we need to know what impact the Government’s policies will have on  those who are most impoverished in society and I support that. It is all very well saying, “Well we have reviews, and more reviews.” We need to know what is happening on the ground.

It is not bad for the Government to look at policies and say that they might have got something wrong, or got something right, and to ask what is working and what is not working. There is nothing wrong with that, and I hope that when discussing the clause that is what we will talk about.

I will end with something that Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, said:

“There’s nothing in these proposals for today’s pensioners—so we might get a single-tier state pension, but we’ll have a two-tier pension system. This will only add insult to injury to those 5m older women who currently get nowhere near £144 a week and will be left to struggle on with the complicated means tested Pension Credit

Those are the people we have been sent here to represent and they need our help. I am not going to denigrate the Government. They believe that what they are doing is right, and that is what they were elected for, but there should be some check on what they are doing and whether it is right. I urge Government and Opposition Members to call for a review.